I recently finished reading John Jantsch’s best seller The Referral Engine –
Teaching Your Business to Market Itself
. As you may know from reading my blog postings, I am an avid business book reader, with shelf after shelf
crammed with business, marketing, sales, recruiting, hiring, branding,
consulting, assessment focused books that I have read, many more than once. The Referral Engine is one of the few that I have read whose information can be immediately applied to any business that wants to grow. And what business doesn’t want to grow!

Yes, I have read many other books that have offered new, exciting and different perspectives on a particular topic, but in most cases the new, exciting and different perspectives always need tweaking on the part of the reader to make them applicable to your business. Not this book. In fact, our company is in the process of applying Jantsch’s Referral Engine process to how we do business. I will report our progress in future blogs.

In order to develop a referral engine company, one has to understand what your company does, how you do it, your ideal customers, and train your employees, customers and partners to be aware of this and be open to referring business. And perhaps most importantly, a referral engine company must always be giving customers and partners referrals with no expectation of getting referrals in return.

However, as I was reading this book I began to think of a different type of referral engine. Instead of looking for referred business, a company could apply the same principles to candidate referrals.

It would all start with understanding what the position requires (not job description, think performance profile); what makes an ideal candidate and what would be acceptable to the hiring manager; and what the hiring process is and setting proper expectations.

Once this is in place, you then need to train your employees, customers and partners.

If your best hires come from employee referrals, your goal should be that the majority of your hires come from employee referrals. Are all your employees aware of position requirements, ideal candidates and is a process in place that will encourage your employees to always be referring? Get your employees to always be thinking of referring candidates.

Your customers are your candidates. No matter the source, every candidate is a customer. They are buying, you are selling. Whether or not they are hired, if a candidate had a good experience; was treated with respect during however long the hiring process; received prompt and relevant feedback; they will spread the word about your company and refer candidates to you. Are your recruiters making all candidates aware of position requirements, ideal candidates? Are your recruiters always asking “Who else do you know? Who did you work with who could do this job? Who would you like to be on this project with you?” Setting the expectation of getting referrals from candidates starts with the first contact with the candidate.

And lastly, most businesses have some type of a partner relationship, everything from IT to accounting to marketing/advertising to outside recruiters. These should be companies and people that you respect for what they do. You would value their input and recommendations. If you have partner relationships make them aware of your position requirements, your ideal candidate and make sure that they understand your hiring process.

In order for your candidate referral engine to run smoothly you need to prime the pump, you need to give in order to get. In the case of the employee referral source, rewards, incentives and acknowledgement of referral could be enough. Even making referrals part of a job requirement sends a strong message as to the importance of referred candidates.

With the candidate referral source what you give could include, acknowledgement of referral, thank you note from the C-level,
on-going contact with candidates not hired regarding future openings, advice on career, job opportunities outside your company and periodic updates regarding the referred candidate.

And with the partner referral source what you give could be business, candidates who may not be the fit for your openings, industry information as well as updated information on your company and the candidates that they referred.

Jantsch suggests that as human beings it is in our DNA to want to give something to others, that we are social beings and that giving makes us feel good, important and part of something much bigger than we are. If you don’t ask for or make it hard for anyone to refer candidates to your company you are missing out on some potentially great hires, but you are also doing those who would refer a disservice by not allowing them to do something that is in their nature.

And if you don’t ask or make it easy to get referrals someone else will. And it could be your competition.

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Comment by Sandy Beardsley on October 7, 2010 at 3:38pm
How timely. We are experiencingsuccess on our current project by filling some positions with candidate referrals. Most recently we just filled a Program Director position in Healthcare by asking a candidate, "who do you know that would best fit and be interested in our Program Director opportunity" and the candidate responded, "my husband". He is now the Program Director of a Healthcare Center in Sullivan, MO. A candidate referral program and initiative within a recruiting process is definately gold!


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